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WHat was Shakespeares approx working vocabulary

  1. Nov 21, 2012 #1
    (that is, the approx average amount of words he would use from play to play) and also (my main question) did that amount vary much from play to play to sonnet.I realize that coming up with a specific number of uniqe words for any one play (and then comparing to other works) could be done (very monotonous job though) but im hoping someone has done this sort of counting/calculating before. I noticed he invents alot of words to make them fit into the meter, but does he use these same words in other plays?
    If you dont think this has been done, then do you have any ideas how i could tabulate this (even if you think its rather pointless)? (use excel or something) .. i dont write software so im sort of limited in what tools i could use, but im thinking that excel would do the job, no? any ideas?

    Also did shakespeare write anything else (that is still around) besides plays and sonnets?

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 21, 2012 #2
    Shakespeare had quite a few hapax legomena in his works. He used a lot of the same words from play to play, but you would sporadically encounter new words. Some of them he made up. If you look up some of the words in his plays, the dictionary will cite that specific play as the source of that word, as if that's the only place it appears.
    I have a Shakespeare dictionary that basically has every word he used, and the meaning of it depends on what play it was used in.

    I don't know if I was any help, I just wanted to use "hapax legomena" in a sentence.
  4. Nov 22, 2012 #3


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    My factoid contribution to this is that in all his works Shakespeare used about 25000 distinct words. off to Wikipedia to see what hapax legomena is.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012
  5. Nov 22, 2012 #4


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